What Are the Risks of Abusing Xanax?

Content reviewed by Gillian Bieler, LCSW, CSAT, Clinical Director

Xanax is a medication prescribed to reduce anxiety and panic-related symptoms. This substance can cause a number of problems for patients, including physical dependency, withdrawal symptoms, nutrient deficiencies and addiction. Treating an addiction to prescription medications like Xanax requires detoxification and various therapies guided by an experienced clinical team.

Xanax is prescribed for different reasons.

Xanax—also known by its generic name alprazolam—belongs to a class of drugs called benzodiazepines, which slows the brain and reduces abnormal excitement. Individuals diagnosed with anxiety and panic disorders may be prescribed Xanax to subdue associated symptoms, including:

  • Anxiety
  • Irritability
  • Panic attacks
  • Sleep problems
  • Muscle tension
  • Shortness of breath
  • Trembling or shaking
  • Difficulty concentrating
  • Excessive worry or fear
  • Restlessness or inability to relax
  • Heart palpitations or accelerated heart rate

Additionally, Xanax is sometimes prescribed to relieve symptoms of depression, agoraphobia and premenstrual syndrome. However, Xanax does not cure these disorders. Stabilizing and managing these conditions effectively often requires a combination of therapy, joining support groups and practicing stress management techniques.

Xanax is often abused.

As a benzodiazepine, Xanax depresses the central nervous system, causing relaxation and sedation depending on the dose. Xanax is often abused to achieve these effects, which quickly kick in within thirty minutes following consumption.

The reasons people abuse Xanax vary. Some use it to self-medicate from stressors while others use it to treat sleep problems. Xanax can be found at parties—particularly among younger crowds—and is sometimes taken with alcohol, a potentially deadly combination.

The pleasurable sensations that many try to achieve include a detachment from reality, emotional numbness and carelessness.

You can develop physical dependency and withdrawal from proper use and abuse of xanax.

Xanax’s fast-acting properties are helpful for those struggling with acute symptoms like panic attacks. However, because the effects peak and dissipate over a period of a few hours, symptoms typically return just as quickly.

When individuals consume higher doses of the medication, they are likely to develop increased tolerance over time. This means they will require more at higher frequencies to feel the effects; this is how physical dependency develops. Taking a smaller dose, or stopping Xanax suddenly, can trigger acute withdrawal symptoms, including seizures and a worsening of psychological disturbances the person was looking to suppress in the first place. When combined with other CNS depressants, a person is at an increased risk of life-threatening symptoms, including respiratory depression, coma and death.

While some develop dependency from drug abuse, others develop dependency despite complying with instructions from their doctor. For example, dependency can develop if the drug is prescribed for an extensive period of time. In patients taking prescribed maintenance doses, it has been observed that Xanax can worsen anxiety symptoms between doses.

Benzodiazepines can cause nutrient deficiencies.

Using benzodiazepines like Xanax comes with the increased risk of depleting the body of important nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, melatonin and B vitamins.

Calcium & Vitamin D: Xanax increases the body’s metabolism of vitamin D, a key vitamin needed for proper calcium absorption. This can result in decreased calcium absorption and deficiencies that impact the maintenance of strong bones and the proper function of the nerves, heart and muscles. Vitamin D is essential for bone health as well as immune function, optimizing mood and the prevention of a number of diseases.

Melatonin: Xanax can deplete melatonin, a key hormone that regulates the body’s sleep and wake cycles. In turn, a regular sleep schedule facilitated by normal melatonin activity supports a healthy metabolism, mood and executive function. Melatonin may also be involved in other important roles in the body beyond sleep.

B Vitamins: B vitamins, including folate, B6 and B12 are depleted by a number of substances like Xanax. These vitamins are involved in the body’s efficient use and storage of energy, regulation of mood and sleep cycles and general function of the nervous system.

Nutrient deficiencies are critical to address in a timely manner as they can lead to many physical and mental health disorders if left untreated.

Xanax addiction is treatable.

Once a person has built up their tolerance and developed a physical dependency to an addictive drug like Xanax, the most severe form of a substance use disorder (SUD) is usually right around the corner.

Addiction changes how a person thinks and behaves, making it challenging to stop use without professional assistance. Even if an individual tries to stop on their own, withdrawal symptoms can be extremely distressing and end in relapse. Some symptoms can be life-threatening, so withdrawal should be monitored by medical staff that have the tools and training to guide a safe and effective detoxification.

The good news is that a Xanax addiction can be treated effectively, allowing a person to rebuild and start a new chapter of their life. Medical detox and individual and group therapies are vital components that guide patients through a sustainable journey to healing.

At Casa Palmera, we have an experienced medical and clinical team that can help you take back control from drug addiction. Our fully licensed facility is located in West Los Angeles, California. We offer a prescription drug abuse treatment program that will help you withdraw from Xanax safely and comfortably. Contact us today to learn more about our programs and how you can get started on your authentic recovery journey. 


This blog is for informational purposes only and should not be a substitute for medical advice. We understand that everyone’s situation is unique, and this content is to provide an overall understanding of substance use disorders. These disorders are very complex, and this post does not take into account the unique circumstances for every individual. For specific questions about your health needs or that of a loved one, seek the help of a healthcare professional.